Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is crucial for our well-being as women. Somehow I have the feeling that some men are better at this than we are. Perhaps it is also because we fill so many different roles and are really good at multitasking?

Women experience various challenges throughout life that necessitate conscious thought about setting boundaries. At work the high performers are often overloaded because they are known for delivering results. This can include being given tasks that others do not want to do or that involve difficult interpersonal situations.

On the home front I observe that many men use their wives as personal assistants for anything that needs to be done for the home, their parents or their business. All the successful women I interviewed do the grocery shopping and ensure that the household is taken care of. So how can our load be lessened?

At work be mindful of the tasks you take on and how you are utilised.  An account executive had her workload trebled when she returned from maternity leave.  She is a conscientious worker and was known to deliver far beyond her male colleagues. When she told her senior she would not cope he responded that of course she will. She did, but left after a year, to the indignation of her manager. He could not understand why she did not say she was unhappy. She had attempted to set boundaries but was ignored. Perhaps she should have persisted and spoken to him about the potential consequences of his response or would she have been seen as being coercive?

A manager receives sms messages from her clients at all times of night about work they want her to do. She feels obligated to respond because her Performance Appraisal review asks for input from her clients. She is frustrated and angry that her private time is being invaded.

We can expect little change, unless we are more open about our needs at work. So educate your seniors on the effect of work practices that have a detrimental impact on your life. Before you automatically take on another project say you would like think about it first. Then take time to reflect and see if you will learn something new through doing it. You may find someone else could also take it on instead of you.

Clearly communicate your needs concerning after hours work, conferences, trips away from home. A top executive in a large corporation shared that she never travels unless she has to. She would also ask herself if a social activity would add value to her or her career and if it did not, she would not attend. She works in a very conservative company and this has never been held against her. At the same time, she is a very hard worker.

When you decide to start a family you need to give active thought to how you will manage your new circumstances. What back-up systems do you have? Where will your priorities lie? As our circumstances change it is our responsibility to update our seniors and ask for their support.

On the home front you need to talk to your partner about their role with regard to parenting and the household. These days many fathers are very actively involved with their children or help to prepare meals. You need to take your personal circumstances into account and then decide if you need to renegotiate roles and responsibilities with your partner. So often a pattern is created early on in a marriage and just perpetuated. We forget that every new phase of life is an opportunity to take stock, assess our needs and decide upon coping strategies.

When it comes to our children we also need to set clear boundaries. Our children need to know they need to clean up after themselves. In fact this needs to become routine practice. A partner in a business has difficulty understanding why her teenage children leave the kitchen in such a mess. She forgets that as small children she never insisted that they put their toys away or tidy up. Their helper did this. Unless we instill boundaries with our children when they are young, we cannot expect them to behave better when they are teenagers.

In essence, setting boundaries is about honouring our own needs. It is also about respecting our wishes and expecting others to do the same. Setting boundaries is about ensuring that no one takes advantage of us. But mostly, setting boundaries is about maintaining our mental and emotional well-being. If you would like to learn to be more assertive coaching will definitely help you. To learn more about the impact of physical and emotional well-being of women in the working environment, download my free guide to Balancing Work, Your Family and Your Career.



Posted in Well-being, Women.